Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

DCF to hire new executive to oversee mental hospitals

Florida will hire a top-level administrator to find ways to curb violence and improve medical care at state mental hospitals.

The new position will oversee Florida's three remaining state-run mental facilities, including the flagship Florida State Hospital with nearly 1,000 patients.

Department of Children and Families officials on Tuesday said the change will put one person in charge of monitoring and improving patient care, and will allow DCF to standardize policies at the hospitals it oversees.

The position is part of what the DCF calls a "comprehensive review" of the hospitals, including how they are staffed and how they will operate in the future.

That review is the latest state action following an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and Sarasota Herald-Tribune that found escalating violence at the hospitals.

The series — Insane. Invisible In danger. — won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting this year. It revealed how years of deep budget cuts and layoffs led to chaos on the wards, with dangerous patients allowed to roam the hallways without supervision and staffing levels so thin that sometimes a single employee was left alone to watch over a dozen or more patients.

The state expects to pay the person between $165,000 and $195,000. An advertisement for the position says candidates must have at least 15 years in behavioral health management and at least five years in an executive-level position.

Officials at Florida State Hospital, North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center and Northeast Florida State Hospital will report to the new administrator, who will set guidelines for hiring, staffing and budgeting among the facilities.

The decision to hire a single executive was greeted with enthusiasm from mental health advocates.

"Creating a position like this is a very important step in the right direction," said Denise Marzullo, president of the advocacy group Mental Health America of Northeast Florida. "When you look across the system, one problem has been a lack of common policies and procedures for each of the hospitals. This person has the opportunity to streamline those policies so all of the hospitals are operating under the same guidelines."

Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, who chairs a committee overseeing DCF, praised Secretary Mike Carroll and said the decision to place a single person in charge of the three public institutions is a promising start to fixing the hospitals.

"DCF has an opportunity to improve how patients get services … and this could be one of the ways that happens," Sobel said Tuesday. "This could be a great start."

Other efforts to improve the hospitals are already under way.

The Legislature gave DCF money to hire as many as 160 full- and part-time new workers, many of whom will start in July. Gov. Rick Scott ordered the hospitals to purchase new security cameras and body alarms for workers. Lawmakers added almost $55 million to the budget for new mental health programs.

Contact Leonora LaPeter Anton at and Anthony Cormier at

DCF to hire new executive to oversee mental hospitals 06/01/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 1, 2016 10:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trigaux: Tampa Bay lands on Forbes 2017 ranking of best places for young professionals

    Working Life

    Consider this one more notch in the belt of Tampa Bay starting to win serious attention from millennials as place to live and build a career.

    Mike Griffin is a senior managing director in Tampa for Savills Studley Occupier Services, which provides integrated real estate services. He is also chairman for 2017 of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the first of the next generation of leadership emerging in this metro market. [Courtesy of Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce]
  2. Column: Trump beat Bush, Rubio but has become an 'establishment sellout'


    NYT’s Ross Douthat's Sunday column: Donald Trump, Establishment Sellout

  3. Haitians get a reprieve from Trump administration


    Haitians living in Florida, and the rest of the country, will be allowed to stay an additional six months, federal officials have decided.

  4. Veteran big game hunter dies after elephant, felled by gunfire, collapses on him


    Theunis Botha led his first guided hunting safari through South Africa's grasslands in 1989. A college student at the time, he used the money he received to help put himself through school.

    Big game hunter Theunis Botha, shown here with elephant tusks, was killed during a hunt in west Zimbabwe.
  5. Starting at top: O.J. Howard becomes first Bucs rookie to sign


    The Bucs have begun the process of signing their rookie draft picks and they started at the top.

    Alabama tight end O.J. Howard has signed a four-year contract with a fifth-year club option with the Bucs.